Advocates Needed to Speak Out for New Mexico's Threatened Cougars
To all wildlife advocates in New Mexico,
Animal Protection of New Mexico (APNM) has just learned that NM
Game and Fish is gathering public input on cougars and bears and
the current regulations regarding their management. The cougars
desperately need letters from you on their behalf.
For the last eight years, APNM has been working to ensure a sustainable
cougar population in New Mexico, and we have relied almost entirely
on the valuable results of Dr. Kenneth Logan's pre-eminent 10-year
study of cougars in the San Andres Mountains (1986-1996), funded
by NM Game and Fish. All our comments and positions have been based
on his work, input and recommendations on cougar management in NM.
Please write to the addresses provided below, and ask NM Game and
Fish to reduce the cougar harvest limit in accordance with the results
of Dr. Logan’s study.
Two items are pasted below:
1) background on cougar management in NM
2) talking points to help you form comments
Thank you in advance!
NM Department of Game and Fish
P.O. Box 25112
Santa Fe, NM 87504
Also, write the State Game commissioners at the following addresses:
Guy Riordan, Chairman
9514 Kandace Drive, NW
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87114
Home (505) 897-1371
Fax (505) 881-5430
Alfredo Montoya, Vice-Chairman
P.O. Box 856
San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico 87566
Home (505) 852-2551
P.O. Box 9314
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87504
Work (505) 983-4609
Fax (505) 983-2355
Jennifer Atchley Montoya
4010 Oleta Drive, Apt. A
Las Cruces, New Mexico 88001
Home (505) 526-1320
Work (505) 525-9537
Fax (505) 523-2866
7905 Spain Northeast
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87109
Work (505) 293-3515
026 Chamisa Drive
Zia Pueblo, New Mexico 87053-6035
Work (505) 867-3304
Fax (505) 867-3308
P.O. Box 2630
Hobbs, New Mexico 88241-2630
Home (505) 397-3906
Work (505) 393-3024
Fax (505) 391-6684
Between 1985 and 1996, the Hornocker Wildlife Institute (Hornocker)
conducted the most complete study of cougars ever—in New Mexico.
Despite this comprehensive examination of one cougar subpopulation
on the San Andreas Mountain range and the valuable information it
provided on cougar biology, the number of cougars in New Mexico’s
entire population and their home ranges still remains unknown. Thus,
it makes sense to use the best available science to obtain estimates
of the population’s density.
New Mexico Game and Fish claimed but actually failed to use this
study and others for implementing a scientifically sound cougar
management plan. On the other hand, using the Hornocker study, Animal
Protection of New Mexico (APNM) calculated that the best available
information suggests there are approximately 1,000 adult cougars
in New Mexico.
Based on other results of the Hornocker study, and because there
is so much uncertainty about the cougar population and its trends,
Dr. Ken Logan, the study’s lead researcher and co-author of
Desert Puma, recommended that New Mexico’s sport-hunting kill
rate not exceed 11% of adult cougars in those units where the state
wanted to maintain a sustainable population. Eleven percent would
represent about 110 cougars killed per year. Dr. Logan also recommended
on-the-ground monitoring of the effects of the killing, to begin
to establish field corroboration of the estimates.
Ignoring this advice, the former New Mexico Game Commission instituted
a quota of 234 for the 2002-2003 season—the highest in 20
years. That quota remained for the 2003-2004 season.
The average number of lions killed in New Mexico between 1981 and
1996 was 110; strikingly, the same recommended number that would
likely achieve a sustainable kill rate. Yet between 1996 and 2001,
the average number killed each year was 177. And in 2002, hunters
killed 203 lions; in 2003 (as of 4/7/03) 257 were killed (179 +
45 on the Bighorn sheep ranges).
This trend toward higher kill quotas came as a result of policies
passed by the former New Mexico Game Commission. In September 2001,
in addition to a 234 quota for the 2002-2003 season, the Commission
subsequently approved unlimited year-round hunting on private lands,
in bighorn sheep areas, and in three southeastern New Mexico Game
Season: Oct 1 – Mar 31 (except in some units and private lands
where it is year round)
Classification: Big Game (as of 1971).
Females: Females with spotted kittens prohibited
Kittens: Not allowed to take kittens that show spots
Hunting tags: Resident $33; Non-Resident $210
Dogs: Licensed hunter must be present when dogs are released; no
Quota 2004: 234
Bag Limit: One/hunter; except in bighorn sheep ranges and in three
additional Game Management Units, it is two.
Cougars Killed by Wildlife Services: changes each year
2) Talking Points
a. The current cougar quota and regulations are reckless and extreme.
The Department's zone management system should be established so
that no more than about 110 cougars are killed each year. This quota
not only should include sport hunting kills, but also any other
"management kills" such as in bighorn sheep areas.
Detail behind the point:
In previous years, the Department recommended and the former Commission
approved a quota of 231-234 cougars, with additional allowances
for a second cougar tag (for all cougar hunters) and no quotas in
all bighorn sheep ranges (Manzano, Ladrone, Little and Big Hatchet,
Peloncillo and San Andres Mountains). Former Department personnel
admitted that this could result in killing as many as 1/3 (33%)
of the state’s adult cougars. The former Commission also approved
year-round hunting of cougars on private lands. These decisions
of the former Commission are also reckless and extreme.
The Hornocker Wildlife Institute’s 10-year study of cougars
in New Mexico’s San Andres Mountains recommended that the
allowable harvest of cougars for long-range maintenance of cougars
is 11% of adult cougars. That translates into only about 110 cougars.
A few years ago, when Ken Logan, senior author of the Hornocker
study, was asked about the efficacy of even a 28% cougar harvest,
he said that a 28% harvest rate of adults is at the critical boundary
between population sustainability and population collapse. It’s
important to recognize that the Department’s current quota
proposal goes even further – to kill at a 33% rate. This is
reckless and irresponsible.
b. More cougar refuges are needed, to account for the fact that
no one really knows how many cougars are in NM, and to mitigate
the past few years of extreme quotas.
Details behind the point:
In addition to the extreme quotas recommended, the Department currently
has no true cougar refuges (with zero kill), in direct opposition
to the Hornocker study’s recommendation for a northern and
southern refuge (zero quota) of at least 1,000 square miles each.
True refuges would serve to act as "biological savings accounts"
to mitigate management errors as well as uncertainties about the
cougar population. Currently, no one in the Department can confidently
say what is the trend in our state’s cougar population –
in any area of the state. Yet despite the lack of the most basic
information about cougars – both population or population
trend - the regulations result in many more cougars killed than
c. The Department has to figure out a way to implement on the ground
monitoring, which was a major recommendation in the Hornocker study.
Absent the ability to do so, the cougar quota MUST be very conservative,
since the population and population trend of cougars is not known.
d. For the past many years, cougar management in New Mexico has
been based solely on a narrow political agenda, primarily dictated
by extreme ranching interests. Cougar management should be determined
by the best available science and broad public input, not narrow
private interests bent on decimating the cougar in our state.